Lymphangiomyomatosis (LAM) is a rare disease, of unknown etiology, affecting women almost exclusively. Lung transplantation is the only consistently effective therapy for LAM. Microscopically, LAM consists of a diffuse proliferation of smooth muscle cells. LAM can occur without evidence of other disease (referred to as "sporadic LAM") or in association with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). TSC is an autosomal dominant tumor suppressor gene syndrome characterized by seizures, mental retardation, and tumors in the brain, heart, skin, and kidney. Renal angiomyolipomas occur in approximately 50% of sporadic LAM patients and in 70% of TSC patients. Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in the chromosomal region for the TSC2 gene occurs in 60% of TSC-associated angiomyolipomas. Because of the similar pulmonary and renal manifestations of TSC and sporadic LAM, we hypothesized that LAM and TSC have a common genetic basis. We analyzed renal angiomyolipomas, from 13 women with sporadic LAM, for LOH in the regions of the TSC1 (chromosome 9q34) and TSC2 (chromosome 16p13) genes. TSC2 LOH was detected in seven (54%) of the angiomyolipomas. We also found TSC2 LOH in four lymph nodes from a woman with retroperitoneal LAM. No TSC1 LOH was found. Our findings indicate that the TSC2 gene may be involved in the pathogenesis of sporadic LAM. However, genetic transmission of LAM has not been reported. Women with LAM may have low-penetrance germ-line TSC2 mutations, or they may be mosaic, with TSC2 mutations in the lung and the kidney but not in other organs.